It was one of those fall-summer days that the old-timers like to talk about. The calendar says it's fall, but the weather is more like a late summer day. It was a little warm for bird hunting, but as I had been planning on it for weeks, I decided to go anyway. My Brittany, Annie, and I had been hunting a large track of farm land just north of Wheat Creek all morning with little success. She had pointed one medium-size covey of quail, but I missed both shots and watched as they flew across the field onto property that I did not have permission to hunt. The rest of the morning had consisted of just walking and enjoying a beautiful day in the field with Annie.
Long after midday, I stopped at an abandoned farmstead to have a cup of coffee and a sandwich. We settled under a large oak tree in the middle of an abandoned old farm yard, and out of my satchel I pulled some water and treats for Annie and a sandwich and a small thermos of coffee for me. As I ate my sandwich, I wondered how old the dilapidated farmhouse was. Considering the worn structure, the state of the stone porch and the screens that still covered a few of the windows, I surmised it was probably built in the late 1800s or just after the turn of the century.
As I admired the craftsmanship of the stone porch and the stone walkway, Annie curled up next to me and closed her eyes for a well-deserved midday nap. I guess I must've drifted off for a nap myself.
I seemed to have been awakened by the slamming of a screen door and when I looked up, there was a young woman carrying a large basket, and a little girl carrying a homemade doll, who couldn't have been much older than 10 years old, coming off the porch. As they walked across the yard to a clothesline that was full of clothes blowing in the slight warm breeze, the lady said, “We better get these clothes in and folded before your daddy and Stephen get home with supper."
I was startled because I hadn't noticed the line full of clothes when I sat down under the oak tree, and I guess I didn't realize people were still living in the house. I got up and walked over to where the lady and little girl were working. They did not seem at all surprised to see me so I introduced myself and Annie and they introduce themselves as Melinda and Margaret, although Margaret said everyone called her Little Maggie! After I explained that I had been hunting all day with no luck, Melinda invited us to stay for supper, if I'd be so kind as to split a few pieces of wood for the stove, “To earn my keep” she added with a smile. She also indicated that her husband and son were out hunting, and she was counting on them to provide the main course for the meal. While Maggie played with Annie, Melinda excused herself to go into the house to put up the laundry and look after some carrots and potatoes she had put on the stove to cook.
I walked over to the corner of the porch where an axe was stuck in a large stump and began to split a few pieces of wood. As I was bending down to pick up the next log, I heard what sounded like a bell ringing from the woods behind the house. A bell ringing in the woods is not something you often hear, so I was extremely curious as to what was causing that sound. I intently gazed into the woods, and it sounded as if the ringing sound was getting closer. I realized what I was hearing was the ringing of a bell, and eventually in addition to the ringing, I could hear the sound of voices. It wasn't long until a man, a young boy and a dog came out of the woods into the clearing behind the farmhouse. Once little Maggie saw them come out of the woods, she ran to greet them with Annie chasing behind her.
It wasn't long until they reached the farm yard where I introduced myself and apologized for Annie trying to jump up and grab the rabbit the boy was carrying. The man introduced himself as Simon and the boy introduced himself as Stevie. Stevie said that their dog's name was Rex. The bell I had been hearing was a small jingle bell that Rex wore around his neck on a homemade ribbon collar.
Simon told the children to go in the house and help their mother get ready for supper, and he would get the rabbit and two quail he had shot cleaned up and ready for the frying pan. Simon invited me to relax in one of the rocking chairs on the porch, and he would call me when supper was ready. The laughter of the children, the singing from Melinda and the smell of freshly baked bread coming through the screen door gave me a feeling of comfort that I don't believe I've ever felt in my entire life. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes thinking about just how perfect this day had turned out.
The next thing I remember, I was being awakened by the friendly licks from Annie. It took me a second to realize that I was still lying underneath the oak tree. It took me even longer to realize that I had been dreaming. It was hard to believe how real it all had seemed. As I packed everything back in my satchel, I decided that Annie and I would just make our way back to my truck as we had had enough excitement for one day. As I reached around the tree to pick up my thermos, something caught my eye. There, lying on the ground, partially hidden by the grass, I discovered a small jingle bell. You can only imagine my astonishment. I got chills when I picked the bell up.
I called Annie over and immediately attached the jingle bell to her collar. Walking back to the truck as I listened to the bell ringing around Annie's neck, I could almost taste fresh rabbit and homemade bread!
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